Are they a fruit? Are they truly a vegetable? Does it matter what tomatoes are in the end? I say no, because the only answer that really matters for us is whether or not our precious chickens can eat them safely.
Tomatoes are indispensable in most kitchens and it kinds of cuisine, but that doesn’t mean they are safe for chickens, does it? So, can chickens eat tomatoes and are they safe?
Yes. Fresh, ripe tomatoes are safe for chickens, but no other part of the tomato plant is, and chickens should never be given unripened tomatoes. Unripe tomatoes and other parts of the plant contain toxic solanine which can sicken or kill your birds.
Tomatoes are generally healthy for chickens so long as you are careful to only give them ripe ones.
Chickens are smart enough to avoid eating other parts of the plant, but not always, and if they do that or if you give them unripe tomatoes you could make them sick, or accidentally kill them.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t a problem with just a little bit of care, and this article will tell you everything…
What Benefits Do Tomatoes Have for Chickens?
Tomatoes are certainly tasty, and most chickens seem to like eating them, but they aren’t just a treat. They are quite healthy and have many health benefits that will improve the health of your flock.
Most notably, the vitamins and minerals in tomatoes can improve everything from their skin and feathers to their circulatory and even skeletal health.
Also, tomatoes contain a surprising amount of carbohydrates that can give your chickens energy, or even help them stay warm when the weather turns cold.
Even better, tomatoes are super juicy, and also contain a good shot of potassium which together is perfect for helping a bird cope with heat stress, or just help them stay comfortable during sweltering hot weather.
Tomatoes also contain a lot of antioxidants, which for chickens as for people help to dispense with free radicals in the body, and prevent oxidative damage which can lower disease risk all around.
For this reason, tomatoes make a great supplement to a properly-rounded diet for chickens. It’s not something they should have all the time, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Tomatoes Nutritional Info
Tomatoes have a solid nutritional profile. They contain good amounts of the B complex vitamins, lots of vitamin A and beta carotene and vitamins E and K.
Tomatoes are also quite rich in vitamin C, but this isn’t super important for chickens since they make their own vitamin C internally.
The minerals present in tomatoes are also abundant, and your chickens will benefit from plenty of iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, calcium and, as mentioned above, potassium. Potassium is especially critical for proper cellular function and balancing electrolyte levels.
Are Tomatoes Safe for Chickens When Fresh?
Yes. Chickens will love fresh tomatoes and this is the best way to maximize their health benefits since they will contain the most vitamins and minerals this way. The skin, seeds and flesh are all safe.
Tomatoes should be given in moderation since they can contain a lot of sugar, so you don’t want to overdo it or your chickens could actually become obese or get an upset stomach from eating too many tomatoes.
Caution: Never Feed Green Tomatoes to Chickens!
But on the topic of fresh tomatoes there is one thing you must know: Never, never feed unripe or “green” tomatoes to chickens! Unripe tomatoes contain toxic solanine which is highly dangerous to chickens and can make them very sick, or even kill them.
It can even make people seriously ill, this stuff is no joke!
You don’t want to take the risk of feeding green tomatoes, so always check for signs of ripeness before giving your flock any. A green patch on an otherwise ripe tomato may still indicate solanine in it, so choose cautiously.
Are Other Parts of the Tomato Plant Safe for Chickens?
No! Chickens can eat tomatoes, the fruit of the tomato plant, but they must not be allowed to eat any other part of it.
Like unripe tomatoes, the leaves, stems and roots of the plant can contain toxic levels of solanine. The roots, in particular, are quite dangerous…
So, always harvest tomatoes with care, and don’t forget to check for unripe ones! Don’t let your flock nibble from the plants themselves, either: though most chickens seem to know instinctively what they should avoid eating out in nature, this is never a sure thing.
If it was, we wouldn’t hear stories of chickens getting poisoned all the time. Our birds still depend on us to keep them safe.
Can You Cook Tomatoes to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, cooked tomatoes are safe if the fruits were safe in the first place. Note that cooking will deplete some nutrients, but overall it might make them easier to eat if you’re having trouble getting your chickens to eat them in raw form.
Also know that cooking won’t get rid of what solanine is present, not entirely, and it can still be plenty dangerous to your chickens.
Don’t ever try to cook a bad tomato to “save” it and then handing it over to the flock.
Are Tomatoes Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, but you will only want to feed them sparingly, and only once the chicks have grown up a bit. Young chicks under 6 weeks of age are too underdeveloped to effectively process the sugar found in tomatoes (they may not be able to digest it properly), and tomatoes are quite acidic. Either can lead to digestive issues.
Considering how sensitive these little guys and girls are, I think it is best to hold off on tomatoes entirely until they are at least 8 weeks old, and even then only feed them a bit as a treat.
As always, feed them in moderation and monitor their reaction. You should be super careful with tomatoes for chicks since a chick will be far, far more at risk from solanine poisoning than an adult.
How Frequently Can Tomatoes be Fed to Chickens?
Tomatoes are healthy for chickens, and they seem to like them fine, but you don’t want them to be an everyday item on the menu.
Too much sugar, even from natural sources like tomatoes, can have negative side effects in your flock.
Ideally, you should give them tomatoes no more than once or twice a week as treats or supplements and always serve very measured portions.
This way, their digestive systems won’t be put under too much stress, and they can still get the benefits of this delicious veggie (fruit?) without any real risks…
What’s the Best Way to Serve Tomatoes to Your Flock?
If you want to give tomatoes to your flock, consider slicing or dicing them for a crowd of smaller birds, or into quarters or even halves for larger birds.
Some adventurous and energetic chickens will be happy to tear into a whole tomato (green stem removed!), but not all will.
You can also consider mixing tomato pieces in with dry food or other veggies to make a nice sort of casserole for them.
Try to Only Feed Tomatoes to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
One last thing on fresh tomatoes: Do your very best to only give your chickens tomatoes that were not treated with pesticides! Pesticides, of course, are bad for chickens no matter what, even in trace amounts.
So if you’re using store-bought produce, try to buy organic kinds grown without any chemical treatment. If you can’t, wash them really good, but know that pesticides do linger in the flesh. If you grow your own, then you know if they are safe in that regard.
Tomatoes are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
If giving your birds cooked tomatoes for whatever reason, they should only be cooked with other whole, fresh foods and no ingredients coming from a “people food” source.
Tomatoes that were boiled with processed ingredients like bouillon, salt, or spices are not fit for chickens, and can be detrimental to their long-term health! Same thing with our food like pasta, sauces and so forth.
Don’t Leave Tomatoes Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Your chickens should have a ball with tomatoes, but the downside is you’ll need to clean up after they are done.
Tomatoes are juicy and sticky, and the remnants lying around will quickly attract flies and other pests. Plus, if you’re not careful, they could start eating the spoiled parts later, and get sick. So be sure to clean up tomato scraps often!
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.